Bajoran Ensign Ro Laren was created for TNG season 5 to provide one thing the rest of the Enterprise crew couldn’t, and it made Ro a great character.
- Ensign Ro Laren was a significant addition to Star Trek: The Next Generation, providing conflict and narrative tension due to her reluctance to cooperate with Starfleet authority.
- Showrunner Michael Piller praised actor Michelle Forbes for her portrayal of Ensign Ro, highlighting her performance as a key factor in the character’s success.
- Ro Laren’s storyline continued in Star Trek: Picard season 3, where she returned as Commander Ro Laren, now working for Starfleet Intelligence, and had an emotionally charged reunion with Jean-Luc Picard.
One of the “greatest accomplishments” of Star Trek: The Next Generation was Ensign Ro Laren (Michelle Forbes), according to showrunner Michael Piller. TNG season 5, episode 3, “Ensign Ro”, introduced Ro as a Bajoran survivor of the Cardassian occupation, assigned to the USS Enterprise-D to help weed out a Bajoran terrorist cell. Ro’s reluctance to cooperate with Starfleet authority became a selling point of the character since Ensign Ro shook things up among the Enterprise-D’s crew without being a direct antagonist. Although she was directly mentored by Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart), Ro stuck to her ideals and joined the Maquis.
Star Trek: The Next Generation Showrunner Michael Piller explains the behind-the-scenes origin of Ensign Ro Laren in The Fifty-Year Mission: The Next 25 Years, by Mark A. Altman and Edward Gross, with high praise for actor Michelle Forbes. Piller specifically points out that Star Trek: The Next Generation season 5’s new character was intended to “create some conflict,” and the differences between Starfleet’s lofty ideals and Ro Laren’s lived reality meant Ro could provide narrative tension as a self-proclaimed outsider. Read his quote below:
There was no plan at all for Deep Space Nine when Ensign Ro was developed. What was in the back of our minds was the need for a character, and we thought we needed another woman on the show. When we talked about what kind of woman we would want, we thought it would be nice to have someone who had a little backstory and somebody we could use to create some conflict. So Rick and I worked on the concept of Ro, and it was a show I was very satisfied with.
It’s one of the fifth season’s greatest accomplishments—and not just by Rick [Berman] and I, but by the acting of Michelle [Forbes], who is just a wonderful performer—to create a new character on a series where you don’t just throw in new people, because this audience is really particular about who they’re going to make part of the family.
Did Ro Laren Survive Picard Season 3? Star Trek Production Designer Hints It’s Possible
Commander Ro Laren seemingly perished in Star Trek: Picard season 3, but production designer Dave Blass teases a chance Ro may yet live.
Ro Laren Returned in Star Trek: Picard Season 3
30 Years After Turning Down DS9, Michelle Forbes Returned to Star Trek
In one of the greatest surprises of Star Trek: Picard season 3, Michelle Forbes returned as Commander Ro Laren, now an operative of Starfleet Intelligence. Forbes had previously turned down the role of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine‘s First Officer, which was originally intended to be Ro before the character was reconfigured into Major Kira Nerys (Nana Visitor), who shares some elements of Ro’s backstory as a Bajoran freedom fighter. Instead of transferring to DS9, Ro defected to the Maquis in TNG‘s penultimate episode, “Preemptive Strike”, in a move that Picard ultimately felt responsible for, since Picard had taken a personal interest in Ro’s Starfleet career.
Ro’s betrayal went unaddressed until Star Trek: Picard season 3, episode 5, “Imposters”, when Commander Ro’s role in Starfleet Intelligence took her to the Titan to investigate the Changeling infiltration of Starfleet. The reunion between Jean-Luc Picard and Ro Laren was emotionally charged and tense with mutual distrust, as Picard questioned how Ro could be a Starfleet commander after defecting, and Ro suspected Admiral Picard of being a Changeling. The pain dredged up by the past shared between Picard and Ro confirmed their identities, while also recalling Ro Laren’s Star Trek: The Next Generation introduction as Rick Berman and Michael Piller’s conflicted, nuanced ensign.